Squash: Botwright lets her squash do the talking at UK's richest competition

ONE can only imagine the raised eyebrows over the breakfast table this morning if in the cosy confines of a Morningside kitchen, an otherwise respectable Edinburgh gent had informed his wife that he had indeed spent the evening at his club watching a certain Ms Lust get a good thrashing from Ms Botwright who, furthermore, had been dressed in a thong, which, quite frankly, left little to the imagination.

As it turns out, the thong was nowhere to be seen, but our un-named gent would not have been too far wide of the mark after Vicky Botwright made short work of beating Vicky Lust 11-4, 11-1, 11-6 in the Edinburgh Squash Open.

Sponsored by Artemis, the Edinburgh based investment management company, for the ninth consecutive year, the event remains the richest on the BSPA Grand Prix with a total prize fund of 10,000. Squash in the UK is still largely regarded by many as nothing other than a way of keeping fit. In this global TV age it has suffered because of its difficulty to be televised and therefore broaden its appeal.

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Having two folk facing a wall in the pub/club atmosphere of a darts match is one thing, watching two supremely fit, focussed and motivated athletes hit a tiny rubber ball against a white wall is another.

That is perhaps the reason why that when the aforementioned Ms Botwright challenged the traditionally conservative hierarchy of British Squash in 2004, saying she intended to compete in a thong akin to a beach volleyball outfit, it produced headlines.

It says a lot for the status of the sport that Botwright naively assumed the stunt would largely pass unnoticed, but the fact that Ms Botwright was infinitely more attractive than most professional athletes sent those headlines across the globe.

Ms Botwright, who has now largely retired from competing and works as a coach was in more traditional garb at the Edinburgh Squash Club yesterday and easily overcame her opponent with the headline-grabbing name.

World No 9 Peter Barker took the men's title with a 3-0 victory over John Rooney. Barker was in great form and Rooney also tired, finding it difficult to maintain the pace of the game after a long tournament in which he had to overcome Stacey Ross and Scotland's Alan Clyne in the semi-final.

The Edinburgh club, which is located next to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, remains one of the UK's most important centres for squash. It has seven courts, including the only hard ball squash doubles court in the UK.

The Championship Court has a capacity of 150 and is a focal point for major tournaments. All the courts are available for social play, competition, coaching and practice.

Simon Boughton, the club pro said: "It's true squash does suffer in the TV age, but that is largely because the world's top players make it look so easy. Once people see it live they appreciate the phenomenal skill and speed it is played at. Then they want to get involved."

That was certainly the case in Edinburgh over the four days with the club posting sold out signs amid record receipts.

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